Of late, a cadre of hoteliers has developed a clutch of charming boutique hotels to cater to visiting foodies with a discerning taste in accommodation. Set in carefully restored heritage buildings, many of these lodgings are centrally located and serve as a perfect base to explore Georgetown’s buzzy street food scene on foot.
We were compelled to make a trip to Penang when the Malaysian Ringit plunged to a new low against the Singapore Dollar recently. Unlike the United Kingdom where everything costs two times more, Penang was a steal at 2.75RM per S$1.
We were not planning on writing a piece on where to eat in Penang before we left town, as such we did not take notes on prices but bear in mind that while prices are affordable based on current conversion, they are by no means cheap to locals. A plate of char kway teow costs about RM7.50 to 9 while a meal for four at a tze char-style restaurant will cost upwards of RM80.
Whilst planning our Penang food jaunts, we plotted all the outlets we wanted to visit on Google Map (Penang) and assigned where we wanted to cover daily based on how far these outlets were from our base camp, i.e. the hotel.
|The charming Jalan Muntri neighbourhood|
We stayed at the heritage Jalan Muntri neighbourhood this trip. It’s a quietly charming street dotted with numerous accommodation options (from dorms and hostels to luxury boutique hotels) smack bang in the heart of Georgetown. From here, we walked to most food outlets. The heat proved blistering (therefore you would need a huge hat and a bottle of water) but we wouldn’t do it any other way.
|Tua Pui Curry Mee|
|Mr Poh’s Duck Kway Chap|
In Penang, kway chap is served with oodles of flat noodles basking in a robust and rich braised duck broth studded with shredded duck meat and pig innards (skin, blood, belly and intestines). For the best, look no further than Mr Poh’s Duck Kuay Chap (Restoran Kimberly, 137 Lebuh Kimberley; 6.35pm to 11pm; closed on Thursdays). Here, every mouthful of the velvety flat noodles accompanied by slices of the accompanying goodies was a cholesterol-busting delight. Note that this stall operates only at night and is located on the same stretch as Tua Pui Curry Mee.
|No-name wanton mee stall along Lebuh Chulia (in front of Regent Furnishing)|
|Pasar Air Itam Laksa|
|Ah Leng Chair Kway Teow|
|Lam Ah Coffee Shop’s Beef Koay Teow|
|Lam Ah Coffee Shop’s Orh Luak|
|Ah Soon Kor Har Mee|
|Aunty Gaik Lean’s stir-fried assam prawns|
Peranakan cuisine is fairly common in Penang although you’ll come to notice that the Penangite menu is quite different to what we are familiar with in Singapore. In Penang, you’ll be hard pressed to find ayam buah keluak on the Peranakan menu although chicken kapitan, a dish that we are less familiar with, features rather heavily. There are numerous Peranakan dining options in Penang; if you ask around, most would recommend Ivy’s Peranakan Kitchen (58, Jalan Chow Thye, 10250; 12noon-3pm, 6pm-9pm; closed on 1st and 3rd Monday of the month), which we did not have time to visit. A Penangite friend recommended Aunty Gaik Lean Nyonya food (1 Lebuh Bishop, Penang, 10300); 11am – 2.30pm & 6pm – 9.30pm; closed on Sundays) instead. Located not far from the Little India community (about a 15-20 minute walk from our hotel), this 2-year-old eatery by a restaurateur who used to operate in Kuala Lumpur, fields handsome Peranakan dishes like stir-fried assam prawns, sambal brinjal as well as excellent salads like the fiddlehead fern kerabu. If you yearn for Peranakan food served in a refined setting, look no more than Kebayaat the Straits Chinese-inspired boutique hotel, Seven Terraces (Lorong Stewart, 10200 Pulau Pinang; dinner only 6pm to 10pm; daily), but don’t come here expecting classics. Kebaya specializes in reinvented Straits Chinese cuisine prepped with western techniques (think sous-vide organic roasted pork and grilled chicken kapitan) and occasional Indo-Chinese influences (think prawn geng and grilled chao tom). Unless you are a hotel guest, you would have to settle for a prix fixe 4 course menu(RM120 per person). Whilst you’re at it, don’t miss the cocktails at the adjoining Kebaya and Baba Bar, it’s reputedly one of the sexiest bars in town.
|Tek Sen’s steamed clams with garlic and fermented bean paste|
8. Tze Char
If you have time for just one tze char meal in Penang, make it the most iconic one: Tek Sen Restaurant (18 Lebuh Carnarvon, 10100 Georgetown; 12 noon till 2.30pm, 5.30pm till 9pm; closed on Tuesdays), which started life as a rice stall in 1965. Order the twice-cooked candied pork belly, sambal kang kong and steamed clams with garlic and fermented bean paste. Come latest by 6pm if you do not want to join the queue. If you have time for another tze char experience, go to 69-year-old Hainan institution, Sin Kheang Aun Restaurant (2 Lebuh Chulia, Georgetown; 11am to 2.30pm, 5pm to 8.30pm) that serves home-styled Hainanese dishes without a menu and in pared down surrounds. The food here boasts gentle flavours and does not bear the fiery wok-hei of Tek Seng. Still, it’s a gem; come for lunch as it closes early for dinner.
|Follow the sign on the left to get to the alley where Line Clear Nasi Kandar operates|
|Line Clear’s nasi kandar|
9. Nasi kandar
If you have a penchant for nasi padang in Penang, head to Nasi Kandar Line Clear (177 Jalan Penang, Pulau Pinang, Malaysia; open everyday for 24 hours a day) for Penang-style nasi kandar, plain rice or biryani doused in curry and served with your selection of sides like fried chicken, curry fish head and vegetables). Note that Line Clear is tucked away in a “hidden” alley in between shop houses; do not make the mistake of walking into its next-door, housed-in-a-coffee-shop nasi kandar neighbor. Look here (http://www.penang.ws/dining/5-best-nasi-kandar.htm) for more nasi kandar options in Penang.
© Evelyn Chen 2013
Please note that the reviews published on this blog are sometimes hosted. I am under no obligation to review every restaurant I’ve visited. If I do, the reviews are 100% my own.